The West Gambier Roos are jumping for joy after scoring a miraculous three-point win on a classic Saturday afternoon of football at Vansittart Park.
On the evidence of the opening round of the 2022 Bendigo Bank Western Border Football League season, North Gambier was expected to defend home turf with pride and enter the early break two from two after an undermanned Tigers team made light work of East Gambier.
Meanwhile the Roos went down to Casterton Sandford and they appeared destined for another tough time after an underwhelming first term.
Kicking towards the park end of the ground, the Tigers were unstoppable with Jake Schutz, Sam Stafford and Nick Moretti all helping themselves to majors.
West struggled to find an answer for the home side as Hamish Telford and Justin McConnell ran riot in the midfield.
The scoreboard read 3.3 to 0.1 and all the momentum was with hosts, but never underestimate the power of a raging Roo.
West returned from the break a different outfit, applying immense pressure on North with a tough brand of football headlined by some strong tackles.
This approach was typified by Joe Judd – one of the smallest players on the ground – who chased down the home side’s biggest player Brett Kennedy.
Nathan Taylor was also busy hunting Tigers and caught Schutz holding the ball to setup the Roos’ first major of the day.
With Jordan Williams and Tre Davis also finding the big sticks, West was a rejuvenated force scoring four unanswered goals and North needed to find a response to the visitors’ ambush.
To the relief of Tigers’ coach Ben Hardy, his team regrouped and finally found an opening through the Roos’ midfield.
Pinpoint passing from Nick McInerney and Nicholas Moretti opened up the fat side of the ground.
A Brett Shepherdson major from a stoppage reestablished North’s lead, but just when the hosts started to flex their muscles again, West’s leader made some magic.
In one motion Roos’ coach Daron McElroy won a ruck contest and snapped a goal before a calm set shot sent the visitors back into the lead at the stroke of half time.
Everyone at the ground could tell McElroy meant business through his pumped-up celebrations and steely eyes.
His actions spoke louder than words and inspired his team mates for what was anticipated to be a grandstand finish.
The stage was set after a low-scoring third term where North eked out a narrow one-point lead largely thanks to a courageous mark from McConnell.
With the game on the line, both sides gave it everything and went goal for goal.
The Tigers made the first move and opened a handy lead after a huge running effort from Schutz, who had no energy to celebrate.
But after another McElroy goal and some sold candy by youngster Mitch Cornolo, the Roos were in the box seat with the key blows opening up a nine-point lead.
Despite composed McConnell set shot cutting the margin to three in the dying moments, West held on to record an uplifting win and kick off the McElroy era in style.